Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and inclusion: an exploration of learning facilitators’ experiences in mainstream schools.
Swift, Jennifer Rose.
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The rates of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have risen exponentially within the last decade with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifying 1 in 59 children as having ASD in the United States (CDC, 2018). These dramatic prevalence rates are thought to be increasing worldwide. As the rates of ASD are rising, more children with ASD are being enrolled into mainstream schools as a result of the state’s inclusion policy, White Paper 6 (2001). Whilst past studies have illuminated the experiences and perceptions of educators who have taught ASD learners in inclusive environments and their experiences with working with learning facilitators, scarce information has been provided pertaining to those who work with these ASD learners as learning facilitators within a South African context. This interpretive qualitative study explored the perceptions and experiences of six learning facilitators who facilitate ASD children in mainstream schools. The results of the study suggest that the participants had doubts regarding the feasibility and implementation of the state’s legislation concerning educating ASD children in mainstream classrooms. Furthermore, in order to include ASD children more successfully into a mainstream classroom, a number of changes would need to be made. These changes include the restructuring of the schooling curriculum to cater to the atypical learning styles of ASD learners, an increase in resources or provisions to support services such as learning facilitation, the promotion and implementation of in-service training opportunities for mainstream educators and the fine tuning of the job definition and description of the role that teachers and facilitators respectively play in the mainstream classroom. Overall, the participants of this study were of the belief that ASD children should have the right to be included in mainstream schools and that this can be achieved should these areas of concerns be addressed.